Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Late Great Starbuck

It's 2:30 a.m. and I just changed out of my soaked, muddy clothes. It's cold - my hair is wet, and so are my eyes.

Starbuck died an hour ago.

At 1:00 this morning, Pat burst into my house, asking me to help her. The back deck had two or three boards out, where the plumbers and landscape crew had been working on her sprinkler system. Sometime during the night, Starbuck had somehow fallen into this narrow area. He was on his back, and one of his rear legs was wedged under the board, across his body. Pooh had awoken her, and she heard Starbuck crying. When he didn't come to the back door, she put on her coat, and found him.

Winter has started, and the rain is pouring down, in a way that it does only in Houston. The only way we could get Starbuck out was to lift him by his legs. He weighs over 80 pounds. We sat him, covered with mud, on the deck, where he sagged into himself. He laid his head on the deck, oblivious to the rain and thunder.

I ran to my place and grabbed a beach towel. In my nightshirt, clinging from the wet, we managed to put Starbuck onto the towel and carry him to the carport. He lay there, panting. He soiled himself. After a bit of discussion and a quick phone call, I moved cars. Pat's Jeep, which still had a flat from earlier today, I pulled into the street. My Honda, pulled behind her crippled car. I unlocked the heavy iron gate that blocks Pat's driveway, and pulled my big company Impala next to Starbuck. Together, we managed to lift the old dog into a clean blanket and then into my backseat. I let Pat drive, as she knew the way, and I sat in the back with his wet muddy head in my lap, listening to his breathing grow more labored. When we got to the emergency vet clinic, Pat ran to the door. It's Houston and it's dark, and you have to be buzzed in. In the back seat, Starbuck lifted his head. I thought he was getting better, but he left out two deep gasps and laid back down, his eyes open and glazed, his breathing very shallow. I called to Pat - she needed to be with her dog, and I could man the doors. After what seemed like endless minutes, two girls strolled out with a gurney. By that time, I knew Starbuck was dead, or nearly so. His tongue was hanging out of the side of his mouth.

The desk clerk brought us blankets, and we waited, weeping, while the mysterious medical personnel worked in the back room. Within a few minutes, the technician came out and took Pat. Her companion of 12 years was gone. In a little bit, I went and sat next to my friend, and together we went to see her old faithful boy. He wasn't the magnificent white Siberian husky, he was a muddy mound of fur under a blanket. Starbuck was gone. I held his paw while Pat cried over his face.

Pat has a flight to Dubai in less than 12 hours. The 18-hour trip is never good for her, but now she will be on a plane, alone, thinking about her dear old dog. Monday, I will call the vet and make arrangements for Starbuck to be cremated. Of all their patients, only Starbuck earned a framed color portrait in their lobby. I will figure out a way to get her tire changed. She won't be back until late January, and I will try to take care of things for her while she is gone. Her other little dog, Pooh, will be lost without her big buddy, but I will give her some extra affection each evening. I'm worried about Pat. She lost her partner of nearly 30 years, three years ago, and is still in mourning. Starbuck was one more link back, and now he is gone.

I felt a need to write this down. It's almost 3 in the morning, and the rain is still pounding down. There is a pile of muddy clothes and blankets and towels, but they will be there tomorrow. I'm going to bed now, but I don't think I will be able to sleep for a while.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Gone Huntin'

A few days before the New Year's weekend, I got a frantic call from one of my contractors. He had booked a hunting trip for another client at the CF Ranch ( outside of Alpine, Texas, three days with guides looking for trophy deer. The client had cancelled, and he was trying to find someone else to go so that he could still write it off on his expense account. And he was so nice about it: "Hey, you're always bitching that we never invite women to the hunting or fishing trips, so here's your chance."

It's not like I had anything else to do that weekend, but it was a long trip. And cold. I suggested that it would be difficult for me to go, since I'd have to face Dad's jealousy. So Jeff invited my dad. So how could I refuse? I called Dad up and told him to be packed and loaded by 3:00 p.m. the next day. Jeff picked me up at the airport, and we stopped to pick up Dad and headed to Alpine.

The ranch, nestled in the foothills of the Davis Mountains in Texas' Big Bend Country, was beautiful and wild. The ranch hands were friendly, polite, skilled, and good cooks. This is a working ranch that also manages a trophy herd, the Reata professional polo team, and serves as a backdrop for movies and commercials. The mess hall was lined with photos of regular visitors: Tom Selleck, Richard Farnsworth, rodeo champs I didn't recognize. We spent the first day bumping around in an ancient Suburban while the guides drove us to areas where the mule deer are frequently spotted, usually straight up the side of a mountain. We saw many deer, but they were usually too far away for a good shot, or the guides determined that they were not large enough to be considered 'trophy' and therefore did not allow shots. I was not interested in bagging a deer, but I enjoyed the beautiful scenery, and spending a day with my Dad.

The next day, at the lunch break, I announced that I was tired of bouncing and sitting, and wanted to spend the afternoon at the ranch headquarters. I spent an hour sitting inside a pick-up truck about 10 yards away from two dozen deer who came into the camp area to feed on the stored cotton seed, watching the rutting bucks fight until it was too dark for me to see. At suppertime, the menfolk arrived. Dad had shot a deer. I didn't realize that this was the first deer he had actually shot since we had lived in Montana in the mid-60s. His grin, which spread all the around his head, was infectious. We spent a few hours the next day, since Jeff was anxious to get his 10-pointer, but ended up heading back in time for me to catch a flight and be home in time for dinner.

Oh, and I shot this javelina:

A best friend said: "I guess you look cute, in a redneck sort of way." But my youngest son and my grizzled brother were both very impressed, as were many of the men I work with. I guess I'm even more 'one of the guys' now. One of my JREF forum friends wrote: "Brains, good looks, and can carry a gun. The only question left - can you drive a stick shift?" So of course I had to send him a photo of my Honda S2000 6-speed roadster.

By the way: Happy 73rd Birthday, Daddy.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Junior Skepchicks at Work!

From the Odessa (Texas) High School newspaper. Two young women I am mentoring in the skepticism. They attended the James Randi Educational Foundation annual conference ("The Amaz!ng Meeting"), and their school did a write-up. That's me (the old lady) in the picture. Way to go, girls! (Click on picture to enlarge enough to read it). The girls were a bit fuzzy on the facts - It's James Randi, not James Randy, and it was not sponsored by the Skeptic Society, which is headed by Dr Michael Shermer. However, Dr. Shermer was a speaker at TAM. But, the essence is here.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I Rock, I Rule: I'm Totally Cool


"Who rocks? Who's your mama?"

"Did you get it?"

"I DID. Who rules?"


How else can a middle-aged single mom totally impress her almost 19-year-old son? You know, the one that has been too cool to be seen in public with her within the Continental United States since he was 15. The one who rolls his eyes when she tries to explain to him that a LOT of teens would be GLAD to have a mom who was a cool, smart, skepchick.

Yes, that one.

I attended the Amaz!ng Meeting last weekend in in Las Vegas (TAM5 to initiates, and the fiefdom of James "the Amazing" Randi, You can read all about TAM at that site, at,,, and many other places. Do so. This post is rather about some guests I got to meet.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone ("the South Park dudes") were invited to a Q&A session moderated by Penn Gillette (Penn & Teller). Why were two cartoonists at a conference of skeptics and scientists? Well, as one of them said during the session (paraphrasing) "When we hear some of this stuff, we're like, we're TOTALLY taking them down!" Witness their episodes on Scientology, Katrina, Mormonism, New Age mysticism, evolution, and...pretty much anything and everything. They are equal-opportunity lampooners.

Even though they are frequently mobbed by their fans, they graciously stayed around for a bit to sign autographs and pose for pictures. I'm not a celebrity-junkie, but the opportunity to do something that would ACTUALLY IMPRESS MY TEEN was something that I could not pass up. So I present(drum roll): Evidence!